Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Song Fu Statistics

Microsoft Excel Microsoft Excel OpenOffice.org CalcOpenOffice.org Calc

In the name of all that's anal retentive, I've compiled statistics for ALL of the Song Fu competitions. I have it in Excel and OpenOffice.org formats. If you're interested, bookmark this page. I'll keep it updated here.

UPDATE 2010.01.03: I've added a "% of Total Votes" tab. Now you can see how each song did relative to the others within a competition round. This eliminates misinformation that arises when comparing the raw votes of two rounds having different participation. (A song can have the most votes and do poorly, percentage-wise, compared to other rounds.) This makes it possible to do meaningful trend analysis.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Twelve Days of the Campaign

The Twelve Days of the Campaign.ogg The Twelve Days of the Campaign.mp3 (live demo - piano)
This is a ghost Song Fu; one of the things they were looking for this year was a Winter Holiday song that's not about the holidays. I'm thinking this one probably wouldn't meet the challenge on technical grounds. This is more of a parody than a brand new song, but nevertheless here it is. I also am a little late on my self-imposed deadline, but thought better of it when I realized that I'm not actually competing, had some other obligations, and had already done a YouTube vid and penned a Biography of a Song this week. Combined with my revised Jolly Old Saint Nicholas, this comprises the extent of my holiday songs for this season.

For those that aren't familiar with Dungeons & Dragons, the Dungeon Master (“DM”) is sort of the author and game referee. This is a conversation between me ("D") and my son Timothy ("T") (originally Will was going to do it, but Tim volunteered for the meager bribe of being allowed to open a Christmas present early).

The Twelve Days of the Campaign
dave & will leigh
D: Tim, let me tell you about this D&D campaign I'm in.
T: Is it good?
D: Yeah, it's great!
T: Well tell me about it! [music starts] Wait a minute? It's musical?
D: Yep.
On the FIRST day of the campaign my DM gave to me
A Deck of Many Things!
T: Isn't that a lot?
D: Not really.
On the SECOND day of the campaign my DM gave to me
Two spider gloves
and a Deck of Many Things!
T: Don't you mean gloves of spider climbing?
D: yeah, but that doesn't scan.
On the THIRD day of the campaign my DM gave to me
Three chain mail armor
Two spider gloves
and a Deck of Many Things!
T: You do know that's three Decks of Many Things so far, right?
D: Yeah. So?
On the FOURTH day of the campaign my DM gave to me
Four bags of loot
Three chain mail armor
Two spider gloves
And a Deck of Many Things!
T: OK, I sense a pattern. How bout we cut this Monty Haul campaign short. Just skip to the end.
D: you sure?

T: Yep
D: OK.
On the TWELFTH day of the campaign my DM sent at me
Twelve Chromatic Dragons!
Eleven Lich Lords!
T: what!
Ten Cyclops Fighters!
T: say again?
Nine Cave Trolls!
Eight Red Beholders!
T: now wait just a minute!
Seven Hill Giants!
Six Angry Orcs!
T: Aw, come ON!
Four bags of loot
Three chain mail armor
Two spider gloves
And a Deck of Many Things!
T: you suck.

So Long

This song is just a little weird. My lyricist, William, had noticed a little boy who was a dead ringer for a kid he'd known growing up. The boy was about the same age now as they were then, if you follow me. It hardly seemed possible, in that albino African-Americans aren't common. So he wrote these verses.

Around the same time I was reading a story by Harlan Ellison called "Jeffty is Five", in which not only does Jeffty never grow old, but Jeffty's world is equally unchanged. So, given the verses from William and an understanding of the concept from H.E., I finished the song. Here, this explains the concept:


The song is simply an exploration of what it might feel like to always be a child. I know when I was young, I couldn't wait to be older. What if your birthday never comes?

Man! Look at that serious face! I'm really tempted to do that again, this time wearing a Guy Fawkes mask or something.

So Long
wmh - pre-1982

He was young when I was young
It seems I knew him long ago
And now I don't know him at all.
But he doesn't grow

And it's been so long
He doesn't grow
His day won't come
His life goes on
It's been so long
His eyes, they show
When death has come
Take me along.

Forever ever frozen in time
Escaping age for a life
He remains a child, remains behind
Still moving in my eye.

And it's been so long
He doesn't grow
His day won't come
His life goes on and on and on
And it's been so long
His eyes, they show
When death has come
Take me along.

The black boy with the white face
Who runs who hides who plays
Forever hidden in space
Still moving in one place.

And it's been so long
He doesn't grow
His day won't come
His life goes on and on and on and on and on...
And it's been so long
His eyes, they show
When death has come
Please take me along.
(So long, so long!)
Take me along
(So long, so long!)
Take me along


Sunday, December 13, 2009


Twenty-two.mp3 (live demo - piano)

I'm watching the Song Fu competition with some interest. A few people said I should compete in such a thing, but honestly I think I may write too slowly to do it. So I'm going to simply try to see if I can do the challenges. It's not really a fair test because I've already seen the sorts of things that other people did for rounds one and two, and I've had two days of looking at both of those challenges plus the last one.

To give myself a better test, I'm going to try to do all three songs by next Saturday, though I'm not necessarily going to do them in the order the challenges were presented.

Here's my take on the second challenge, "Write a song about a number."

dfl - 13 Dec 2009

We don't know each other well
But I've seen you in the hallway
As I check my mail
And I wonder if you're busy Friday night?
We could get to know each other, if that's alright
We could have some coffee, enjoy a talk, and then we'll say goodnight
I'll slip down the hallway to my room, go to bed, turn out the light
In the morning when I get the paper I will smile at you
And I'll say, "Good morning, number twenty-two!"
And you will smile at me
And you'll say, "Good morning, number twenty-three!"


Today's the Day (cover)

This is a rough cover of Inverse T. Clown's original song, "Today's the Day". I went for lowest common denominator with this one, hence simple guitar (the only kind I play), and I ignore most of the great figures that are in the original. I made some other changes to the tune (and esp. the bridge) appropriate to the genre. In every case where the lyrics are changed it's because I forgot the words and had to make something up quick, not because I thought I was improving it.

Also check out Edric Haleen's terrific cover of this song on InverseClown's YouTube channel.

Today's the Day
"Inverse T. Clown"

I had a dream last night
In which everything wrong in my life went right
And much to my surprise
It was a quick transition
It played out so vividly
That's it's hard to describe what it did to me
Suffice to say I took it
As a premonition

Today's the day I get a move on
Today's the day I change
Today's the day that I improve on
Who I am and everything I do:
Today's the day that I break up with you

Just stop and think about
All the times I gave in so that we'd work out
If you look at the score
I think I tip the balance
But you prob'ly think that's great
'Cause you take and you drain and manipulate
I guess every succubus
Is gonna have those talents

Today's the day that I get angry
Today's the day I fight
Today's the day that I harangue
The telling-off that's way past overdue:
Today's the day that I break up with you

Don't look at me like that
With your cute pouting lips and your big, sad eyes
You're pretty, but you're pretty much a bitch

It's time for you to see
That the world is the world universally
And nowhere does it say
That you can run my planet
So you take our history
And your need for control and co-misery
And brace yourself real good
Then go ahead and cram it

Today's the day that I'm the victor
Today's the day I win
Today's the day I do your sister
Here's a toast to starting life anew:
Today's the day that I wake up
It's time to say I've had enough
Today's the day that I break up with you

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Still Alive (cover)

Another Jonathan Coulton cover. It's Still Alive, the ending-credits song from the video game, Portal.

BorbaSpinotti got me thinking about doing this. It hadn't crossed my mind before because I really like the song as it's done in Portal, and it never occurred to me to re-interpret it. As it stands, other than mucking about with the dynamics I'm not doing anything to re-interpret the tune... it's just how I'd play the accompaniment if I'd written it, and its simple enough that most anybody could learn it. Instead, I decided to re-interpret the vocals, since I could never in a million years pull off GLaDOS, and Jonathan Coulton already simply sings it as a ballad. So I imagine that the Aperture Science labs are NOT run by the AI, GLaDOS. Instead, they're run by a real, live mad scientist. Then I cast Peter Cushing in the part. Then I throw in a little Bill Shatner sing-talking. I hope it works. It will sound better with practice, I'm sure.

If you're completely confused by all this talk of GLaDOS, read the Portal Wikipedia entry. Basically, it boils down to this: in Portal, you're the lab rat in a science experiment being conducted by a deranged computer.

Now, if you like the arrangement, and want to play it yourself, I teach you how here:

You'll need the lyrics and chords. You can get them HERE. Then check out the JoCo store on the same website and try out the other songs. Buy some.

The tutorial is appropriate to beginning musicians. More advanced pianists will quickly get bored.

It's the best angle I could get with that camera, nevertheless my hands get in the way of the keys, so I hope you get the idea. My fingering sucks in some places, so it's a case of "do what I say, not what I do." Use the fingering that's comfortable to you and keeps you out of trouble. As for myself, I don't think I've played a song exactly the same way twice, and probably won't ever. Things get added, subtracted, or shuffled around according to my mood and audience. So don't sweat the small stuff.

The important thing to remember is that you're a performer, not a tape deck, so make the song your own, and above all have fun with it. They call it "playing" an instrument for a reason.

Here's JoCo singing it.
And here's the song as it appears in the Portal ending credits.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Big Bad World One (cover)

This one's not funny, yet it's one of my very favorite Jonathan Coulton songs because it's just very simple and honest. Let's face it, anybody who's ever gotten tongue tied over the girl can relate to the sentiment: "She's so amazing I couldn't possibly rate. I might as well not try."

Go HERE for lyrics & guitar tabs, or get his Thing A Week version and donate to the starving artist from THIS LINK.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Future Soon (cover)

"The Future Soon" is by Jonathan Coulton. Having grown up geeky, I completely relate.

Go to jonathancoulton.com for lyrics, guitar tabs, or to donate to the starving artist. He'll appreciate it.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Like Norman

This is really one of my favorite songs. Oh, yeah, I love this tune. I did it as a neo-spiritual. Theres a minor crescendo at "I once killed a man...", and things come to a real head in the last verse, where you've got strings, chorus, tho whole bolt of cloth, right up to the last word, where it just ends. The song is cut short, just like the life of the Inmate. It's impossible to hear it without getting a chill.

At least, that's how it is in my head. One of the biggest frustrations of being a composer without a band is that YOU don't hear what I hear. Nevertheless...

They say you should write about what you know. If that's true in every case, then how in the world are we qualified to write about Death Row? Because in a deeper sense, we're all on Death Row, with no possibility of parole. Try this: read the lyrics and think of it in terms of a metaphor for your father's death. We think of our parents as indestructible, and their deaths are the first real foreshadowing of our own mortality. This is when, like the Inmate, we see the Angels coming.

Now is that deep or what?

Like Norman

wmh - August, 2005

I live in solitaire like Norman
Truly he's a friend of mine
But I don't see the angels a-comin'
So Norman tells me that I am blind

Norman tells his great big stories
Mostly funny -- sad at times
If I could only be like Norman
I might escape these walls I climb

A promised land beyond the fences
Of which he speaks now 20 years
And says if not for all this muscle
These past mistakes would disappear

I once killed a man like Norman
I mean, at least that's what they say
But he could never harm another
I know him and it's not his way

I hear footsteps echo down the hall now
They've sent for Norman, absent stay
They say they've come to end the misery
Of all his victims here today

Alone in solitaire like Norman
Truly, once a friend of mine
But now I see the angels comin'
And here I am, just like Norman
Oh no!
Here I am, just like Norman
Oh, Lord!
Here I am.
Just like Norman